Gio Spano and Brendan Murray bring The Greatest Show to the O2 Academy, Islington

A great show from a band that deserves to go places, with a lead singer who can rightfully stand side by side with the best front men out there....

Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media

Back to Islington once more and a major upgrade in venue. Back in January we saw Gio and deVience perform to a packed O2 Academy 2, the smaller upstairs venue, to a huge response. Fast forward 5 months and Gio and the boys return to London with a headline show at the Academy 2’s bigger brother downstairs and succeed in pulling in a much bigger crowd. An impressive feat when London is also playing host to Alice in Chains at Wembley, Republica down the road at The Garage and (for those inclined) Christian Death at the Underworld to name just a few.

Brendan Murray

First up, a close friend of Gio’s, Brendan Murray. An Irish singer and former member of the Irish boyband Hometown, Brendan represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 with the song “Dying to Try” and then competed in The X Factor UK in 2018, the same year as Gio did, finishing in fifth place.

His one man acoustic show brought in a fair few fans to the Academy with each each track granted with a chorus of screams from the first few rows. Having done well in last year’s X-Factor, his effortless Irish charm and winning smile definitely won over a few extra people as the night wore on.

For those people unfamiliar with his music, a haunting cover of The Cranberries “Zombie” was perfectly timed to get the room singing along and it did the required job of putting smiles on faces and getting the crowd truly warmed up.

With “Shallow” and “Fallen” keeping things moving nicely, it was current single “If I’m Honest” that really made people stop and take notice. The trick of an artist with an acoustic guitar is to hold the crowd’s attention and stop them chatting amongst themselves with the music becoming a background effect. It’s a tough challenge when it’s your own show so to be able to hold a crowd when you’re the support is a feat indeed and it was this glorious track that he finished with that definitely proves he’ll be one to watch for in the future.

Gio Spano / deVience

Whilst Gio juggles his time around the band and his latest musical commitments (The Greatest Showman being the latest he’s working on) the band too have their own day jobs that prevent property lawyer Jim O’Connor touring this time around. Something to do with 10 years of training as a lawyer requiring his focus right now. Pfft…. priorities !! As such his place is filled by a friend of Gio’s, Sawyer Waddingham, who played with deVience back when the band first formed so knows everyone well enough that it felt like a seamless performance. It’s almost a shame to think that Sawyer will be replaced when Jim is ready to return. Who says a band can’t have 3 guitarists anyway? Gotta be worth considering??

Opening the show with a bang (literally) thanks to Gio’s impressive party cannon (try explaining that to someone who wasn’t at the show!) the band launched into Ignition and Go Hard from deVience’s debut album. From the off it was clear that both band and crowd were fully invested in the performance. Bouncing, singing, punching the air, living for the moment – could as easily be applied to the heaving mass of people in the audience as it could to Gio and the boys as they moved around the stage. With the spirit of Keith Moon alive and well in Olli Carter and Benno and Donnie playing off each other like Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, the performance was about as infectious as one could hope for.

“Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting”, an X-Factor staple for Gio was given the hard rock sheen and with “Rocketman” currently doing the rounds in the cinema it was an ideal choice to include in the set. Similarly “Baby One More Time” and the Gio reworking went down a treat before Brendan returned to the stage with his acoustic guitar once more for an amazing version of “Iris” with Gio.

Gio’s theatrical experience really comes into its own when the big numbers are performed and as the band launched into “Live and Let Die” it made us wonder just what he and the band could do if they could put a bombastic rock opera type album together.

Gio, climbing on and off the stage to get onto the barrier to interact with the crowd made the performance feel like an arena show personally delivered to each and every individual in the room. They closed with a storming version of Guns ‘n Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” and after a couple of bows (with Benno wandering off like a man who’d forgotten where he was supposed to be) the band departed.

A great show from a band that deserves to go places, with a lead singer who can rightfully stand side by side with the best front men out there. Charisma and energy are two things they do not lack. Let’s watch them rise!

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Photo Credit: Adrian Hextall

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